UKIP did not make the breakthrough it had hoped to after the European election when Nigel Farage suggested the party would get “a significant numbers” of MPs at the general election. Farage himself widely tipped to win the South Thanet seat was eventually defeated by the Conservative candidate.
Credit has to be given to Stand Up To UKIP activists in South Thanet and beyond who proved to be a constant thorn in the side of Farage. The local group highlighted Farage’s admiration for Margaret Thatcher and her anti-working class policies. They also challenged UKIP’s racist scapegoating of immigrants which Farage used to foster divisions in the local community. The local group was joined by a coach full of national Stand Up To UKIP activists on 2 May in a final push to stop Farage.
Farage shamelessly returned as party leader just a number of hours after resigning. Yet the significance of his defeat should not be underestimated, particularly in light of the current ructions his seemingly self-directed reinstatement has caused in the party. Elsewhere, Mark Reckless, one of the two MPs who defected from the Tories, was defeated in the Rochester and Strood election by over 7,000 votes. Douglass Carswell was able to retain his seat in Clacton-On-Sea. However, his majority was cut by nearly 9,000. Carswell is now UKIP’s only remaining MP.
No room for complacency
UKIP remains a serious threat in UK politics even though they failed to gain more than a single MP. The party took not far off 4 million votes across the country, which translates to 12.6% of the vote (one in every eight voters backed the right-wing party) and their national vote has trebled since 2010 general election.
In Thanet where Farage was defeated UKIP secured 33 of 56 council seats and now has control of the District Council. In 120 seats UKIP finished in second place to Labour or the Tories. Certainly, if we look at a number of seats in the north they are positioned as the main opposition party to Labour. In some marginals like Ed Balls seat, in Morley and Outwood, UKIP’s vote contributed to the downfall of the incumbent as their vote share rose by 13%.
UKIP have previously argued that their “2020 Strategy” involved becoming the main opposition in many constituencies in order to line themselves up as a credible opponent to both the Tories and Labour at the next election. UKIP believes that the scale of the cuts and economic crisis will deepen the unpopularity of the mainstream parties which they feel they can capitalise on in the 2020 general election.
Who voted UKIP?
UKIP received substantial votes in seats held by all of the mainstream parties. These were constituencies of varying political demographics. Therefore it is not a straightforward picture when analysing who voted for UKIP.
One of the factors that explains why UKIP only managing to get 1 MP was that their 4 million votes were spread across England and Wales rather than being geographically concentrated in a small number of constituencies. This allowed the two mainstream parties to keep the share of the seats between them and gain former Liberal Democrat constituencies.
Nevertheless, from the data that is available we can say UKIP took the majority of its votes, 43%, from people who voted Tory in the 2010 election. This was followed by 18% of former Liberal Democrat voters, 14% from Labour voters and 6% from other parties (such as the BNP) and people who did not vote in 2010. UKIP also received 19% of their vote from people who voted for them in the last election.
Where did Ukip pick up votes from? This chart shows how Ukip voters in 2015 cast their ballot in 2010. Source: Lord Ashcroft poll conducted after the elections
Stand Up to UKIP continues to have a crucial role to play in challenging the fake anti-establishment and racist rhetoric of UKIP. The election further highlighted the vacuum that exists in mainstream politics as all parties commit to an austerity agenda that is causing huge falls in living standards of ordinary people. Mainstream politicians and the rightwing media seek to scapegoat migrants for the effects of austerity. It is in this climate that UKIP will attempt to make gains in future elections. They will need to be challenged or we risk politics in the UK being dragged even further to the right as we have seen with similar scenarios across Europe. Stand Up To UKIP will be holding a national activist meeting to discuss the way forward for the campaign.